For possibly the first time, the extradition of a requested person from the UK has been prevented by an agreement to hold a remotely conducted trial abroad.
Katy O’Mara of ITN acted on behalf of Vytautas Zapalskis. She contacted the judicial authorities in Lithuania after his appeal against extradition had been dismissed in the High Court, but before it had taken place, to ask if he could be tried remotely. Mr Zapalskis had been remanded into custody at the start of proceedings, and his argument – that it would be disproportionate to extradite him to stand trial for two minor thefts dating back to 2011 – grew stronger the longer he stayed in prison.
Katy liaised directly with the Lithuanian judges who agreed in principle that a remotely conducted trial could take place. Instructed Counsel, Malcolm Hawkes, then successfully applied to the High Court for a stay of extradition at what turned out to be the last available moment – our client had actually been taken to the airport to be extradited before the court’s stay required his return to prison. The order can be seen here.
Katy then arranged for the trials to take place in November via the Cloud Video Platform (CVP). Mr. Zapalskis attended via CVP from prison and was able to consult with his court-appointed Lithuanian lawyer pre-court as well as with his UK extradition legal team. The judge, prosecutor and defence lawyer appeared from the Šiauliai District Court in Lithuania. The written judgments were sent by email a few days later.
In total, our client was sentenced to 6 months 10 days imprisonment. He had in fact spent longer than that in custody and was therefore released.
This case is significant because it demonstrated that, in Lithuania at least, it is possible for a requested person to stand trial remotely instead of being extradited.
Now that remotely conducted hearings have become common in criminal proceedings generally, surely the same approach should be adopted instead of extradition. Extradition often results in serious economic hardship and psychological harm to requested persons and their families. It is long past the time to use remote video technology and avoid where possible unnecessary extradition.
If you or a family member have been requested for extradition then please do get in touch. Our Criminal Department’s lawyers are more than happy to talk through your options.